Australian Steven Bowditch proved he has conquered the demons of depression by scoring his debut victory on the US PGA Tour and winning a place in next week’s US Masters.
The burly 30-year-old from Newcastle clung on to claim his triumph in the Texas Open by one shot.
There was a nervous moment when his three shot lead was cut to one after he bogeyed the final hole but his last day four over par 76 for an eight-under total of 280 was enough to ensure his breakthrough on the tough Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course in San Antonio.
Bowditch’s victory continued a stellar run by Australians in recent weeks after Jason Day’s win in the WGC-Match Play Championship and John Senden in the Valspar Championship.
But this event was more than just a tour win for Bowditch, it was a firm sign of his recovery from the clinical depression he fought and has spoken publicly about, especially in his early days on the US Tour.
Along with his success comes a two-year exemption on the US tour, his Masters place and a massive $US1.1million cheque.
Like Senden, the New South Welshman has won his spot at Augusta and the pair will line up with defending champion Adam Scott and Jason Day in a solid Australian attack.
"I’m over the moon, I really can’t believe it," Bowditch said. "I’ve got no idea [how I got through it], to be honest.
"I just drew back on some experience and got some advice from different people. It just happened to be my week, I guess."
Bowditch is a spokesman for Australian non-profit group beyondblue, which promotes awareness of depression and has also been a supporter of Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, who was recently admitted to hospital suffering from the illness.
Bowditch, who was congratulated near the 18th green by compatriots John Senden, Aaron Baddeley and Scott Gardiner, said the positive people he surrounded himself with this week helped him battle through the rough patches.
"I’ve got a great supporting team," Bowditch said. "I drew on some of my experience and got some advice from different people."
Bowditch went into the final round with a three-shot lead and was lucky to escape unscathed from a double bogey on the fourth hole and four bogeys, including one on the last hole when he missed a one metre putt.
"Every time I got out of check, looking ahead to the Masters and winning golf events and making my speeches before I was finished, I had to pull myself in check every time," he said. "And it happened a lot today."
Bowditch has made the cut in seven of his 12 US PGA Tour starts this year, with a share of 19th place at Pebble Beach his only previous top-25 finish of the season.
His previous best career finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for second at the Greenbrier Classic last year, though he has won three times on the Australasian PGA Tour.
Americans Will MacKenzie (70) and Daniel Summerhays (71) tied for second behind Bowditch.
By: Robert Grant